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His Story: An Essay of a CASA Teen and His Resilience

The following essay is written by a CASA teen about his experience in foster care. Names have been censored for confidentiality.

Within this essay, I will reveal my story, its traumas, its endurance to be good, and the hopes for a happy ending. To give a clear image of who I am, I will address my family history, my interests, and career aspirations, and reveal my current philosophy on life. In my pursuit to grow in knowledge in core subjects, extracurriculars, and career trades, I see vast opportunities to make something of myself.

Throughout my life, I struggled with a lot of things that I had no control over. My mother was in the picture at first but my story goes to plenty of other places. The most consistent person in my life has been my brother. I spent almost all my struggles with my brother. Two others were introduced to my life because my mother had two girls, who are my half-sisters. I was about 2 years old when my first sister (that I knew of) was born.

Life became dark when my mother started to use drugs; we were jumping from house to house. I really could not keep friends because I would switch schools multiple times a year. The year I was in first grade, I was introduced to a new member to call “family", my mother’s boyfriend, who used to abuse us. I was beaten and bruised. Even on my face, I carried bruises so my mother kept me from school. She was worried DCFS (Department of Children & Family Services) would be called on us, and I would be taken away.

Amongst the abuse, school became hard. My school held me back a year because of the number of days I missed in that era of abuse. Life became more difficult as I witnessed my mother start using drugs more and more often. At an early age, I had responsibilities to take care of my baby sisters because my mother would leave us at the house for days without food at an apartment complex. I would have to sell all my toys to my friends. This gave me money to walk to the dollar store to get us food to eat for the nights while she was gone partying and having different men over.

Around the age of eight, I was introduced to another family member, my father. He spent most of my life in jail but my mother kept this from me. Around this age, DCFS began to get involved. At that time, DCFS had told my mother that my brother and I needed another placement. If she could not find one, we were getting taken from the state. My father, my new “placement”, had pulled up one night to come pick my brother and me up from her house to move to Houma. I had to leave my sisters behind not knowing if I would ever see them again.

Once again, I was faced with the obstacle of making new friends and starting a new school. Being a good student in the classroom helped me plenty; the teachers always love me for my hard work. I was always very quiet and listened to their directions keeping me from any write-ups and always maintaining good grades.

Trials strike again as my father began using drugs while he was on the shrimp boats for work. My brother and I struggled a lot with food. We slept at friends’ houses for food. My father was hiding from the police. Many nights he would have my brother and me scared because he was tripping out on drugs in front of us. One night, he got caught by the police and was arrested.

In need of another placement, my Aunt took us in. We spent two years with her until my father got out of jail on work release. We saw beyond his drug addiction and wanted to go back to stay with him. Not long after, he got caught leaving the boat to come to see us. His boss called the cops, being under work release, he got arrested that night so we had to find another placement. This time another Aunt took us in. My Aunt kept us for a while until DCFS got involved asking why we switched placements so many times in a school year.

One ordinary morning, my brother and I were getting ready for school, as we walked into the living room we saw my Aunt and a DCFS worker sitting. They called us to come sit and the DCFS worker told my brother and me that we were getting separated from each other into different group homes. He, being the only consistent person in my life, made me take this news really hard. I did not know if I would ever see him again. I had to watch him be placed in the van and driven away. It was quick, I gave him a hug and there he went. I was told nothing of where he was going. A little while later, my DCFS worker called my Aunt and told them that they had a placement for me in Thibodaux called Lafourche Juvenile Justice Center (JJC). DCFS soon came to pick me up. Once again, I was faced with the obstacle of restarting: a new place, a new school, and new faces. At least at the DCFS office that day I found a little more closure because I saw my brother again. It was very hard for me to go through that at 12 years old. I lost everyone, every family member, and everyone was just taken away from me because of our parents’ bad decision.

That day, they brought me to JJC, and they brought him to the MacDonell Home. At this new “placement”, the home was full of older boys and girls that I did not know and staff that was there to watch you. In group homes, it feels like life or death. This was a turning point for me as I came to the realization that my decisions heavily affected me. I had other kids steal from me, bully me, push bad behavior on me, and try to influence me. I knew my decisions would impact me and could ruin my life in the long run. I spent nights and nights praying to go home and to be safe. People take for granted what it is to lay his/her head at night and know they are safe and home. Instead, I had the grand view of a plain tan wall and the hope of not get bullied or stolen from. I was the smallest, youngest there, and grew up watching so many bad things that happen such as other kids trying to kill themselves. And even worse, understanding how they were doubting they would ever make it in life because of their situation.

At this moment of my life, I had no motivation to strive for better because there was no one in there to tell me to do better; I was consumed by negativity. From the age of 12 till now, I feel as though I lost my whole childhood. I was given no happy moments, no family spending time together, no calls from anyone who cared, and no money to send me for snacks and phone bill to pay to communicate with friends. I had to save my allowance that I got every two weeks from the home to pay for my phone bill. To call it a home felt foolish because they did not even give you the WIFI password nor let you call more than one day a week. My calls went to my brother because I wanted him in my life.

These traumas made it hard to learn. This was because I never felt safe, I never felt in control, and I was constantly faced with depression. My mind was just ready to give up, but I looked at the bigger picture and just kept pushing through. The cycle continued over and over within those six years of group home life. I stayed at JJC for about two years waiting every six months at my court hearing to see if I could finally go home. I remember marking the days on my calendar getting happier and more motivated each time that I would look at it, only to be disappointed. I watched others get to go home. I always wanted to feel that relief of all this trauma but it was out of my hands.

Eventually got some good news, I got to be moved to the MacDonell home with my brother. Obstacles continued to come as I restarted once more. The MacDonell group home was worse than JJC. I longed for a safe place but instead had adults who spoke mean words, witnessed many others try to commit suicide, and constantly having things stolen. I strive my best to catch up in school and what I felt I missed out on but even more I was depressed at this time.

Life continued with hardships. I have this one memory of calling my mother and her telling me “I'm going to get you out there. I promise,” but when the court date came up neither my mother nor my father was there. Calendar marks and counting days to their failed promises, my brother and I were faced with the fact that we had no one. Soon after that, I was given a chance to go back with my aunt. If my brother and I did good, we could go live with her. I got to go with her but my brother unfortunately had to stay in the group home for his bad behavior.

In that month of staying with her, I took advantage of the situation and started to go down the wrong path like sneaking out to see my friends that I missed. Feeling both convicted and guilty of leaving my brother in a group home, I decided to ask to go stay at the group home with my brother. . I just did not want him to suffer alone. No one should suffer alone. I wanted to go back to suffer through it with him. There were even times I was offered to be adopted but I chose my brother because I was loyal to what I said. I will suffer for the only family I felt I had.

Cycles continued as we were split apart again with me at JJC, eventually back to MacDonell. Swapping schools and learning new topics and lessons began to be more of an adaptation for me. I switched from Lafourche parish to Terrebonne parish schools but I still tried my best to have all As and Bs. Clearly, my family life is not the norm nor is it something that anyone would ask for. But now I see family is more than just blood.

Sometimes journeys leave scars so we can encounter certain people in life. People who change your life and hopefully you change theirs. There were people that came into my life that actually cared and were not there for the money. They wanted to have a bond with me even if sometimes I blocked it out because I wanted to do things myself. These people are my CASA worker and a worker from the MacDonnell home who I see now like a brother who took me in. I realize by letting someone in my life that cares really helps heal from years of trauma that I had. It gives me a more positive mindset and the feeling of someone that loves you for who you are. This is a feeling I've been looking for my whole life.

were supposed to. I have kept some space in my schedule to start participating in the bible study since November, and I am taking this time to discover my religious belief due to lack of experience because of foster care. I miss doing sports, but I know the obligations I have in maturing and making responsible decisions.

I have huge hopes of becoming an electrical engineer. The one whom I spoke of as the worker who became like a brother to me has networked me with an electrician to help me build a resume and grow in experience. I want to stay with him and go to either Nicholls State University or Fletcher University and then possibly transfer to Louisiana Tech University. While doing all of this, I am currently and hope to remain helping him as he fosters kids who have similar stories to me. I want to give back through my experiences, because I have been in their shoes. Even if it's not the same story I know the feelings of what it's like to be abandoned and uprooted. This is something I hope to continue doing throughout my life.

Recently, I watched a video on an art form called Kintsugi where you take broken pottery and join it together in gold making it more beautiful than before. The pieces highlight the imperfections and reveal the triumph in healing. In a similar way I can look back on my life and see the damages, people I lost, abuses, and traumas that I faced are like the pieces that are broken. Education, friendship, sports, mentors, and people who love me are like the gold that are building me to be more special than I could have ever been before.

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